Delay to Newcastle’s clean air zone plans confirmed

Councils in Newcastle and Gateshead have confirmed that plans to introduce a Clean Air Zone in Newcastle city centre have been delayed.

An ongoing legal case has prevented councils from proceeding with discussions with their preferred provider, meaning that work to develop the technical systems for the charging zone had to be put on hold.

The charging zone, which would affect older buses, HGVs, vans and taxis and was planned to be in place from January 2021, is still expected to go ahead but would now be later in 2021.

Both councils are still under a legal obligation to put in place the measures that deliver required improvements, and while government has accepted that there has to be a delay, they have reiterated that the obligation is to deliver the package of measures in the shortest possible time.

Other cities with planned clean air zones have also suffered delays.

Arlene Ainsley, cabinet member for transport and air quality at Newcastle City Council and Martin Gannon, leader of Gateshead Council, said in a statement: “We would like to reassure everyone that balancing improving our environment, supporting our economy and protecting the health of everyone who lives and works in our areas remains our priority.

“When we submitted our clean air proposals to government at the beginning of this year, having made changes to reflect the feedback from our extensive public consultation, we could not have anticipated the challenges and uncertainties that we would all face in the months ahead.  Understandably, we have been prioritising our efforts and resources to support our communities and the local economy during the coronavirus pandemic.  This has included putting in place rapid changes to our highways network to enable more people to walk and cycle, while also securing much needed investment from government to support passenger transport services.

“We have faced a legal challenge to our procurement regarding the contract for the ANPR camera systems for the clean air zone. This case, brought by an unsuccessful bidder, has caused a considerable delay. We know that many people have been waiting for an update on these plans. We are grateful for their patience and we are pleased that we are now in a position to provide some certainty for their planning by confirming that the clean air zone will not be implemented in January 2021.

“We will of course provide further information on new timescales as soon as we are able but anticipate the charging clean air zone being introduced later in 2021. However, in the meantime we remain committed to tackling the climate emergency, reducing harmful air pollution, supporting our economy and protecting the health of everyone in our area. Regardless of this delay to the implementation of a charging clean air zone we will continue to deliver changes that ensure active and sustainable transport is at the heart of our future.”